(Last update 4:39 p.m.).
The ninth day of Calvin Ellis' personnel hearing has begun.
Witness is called Dr. Jerry Jordan. Lives in Oxford. Owns four businesses in Oxford and was director of choral activities at Ole Miss for a number of years.
He directed two choirs and supervised other choral directors. He taught conducting and choral methods and supervised student teachers.
He directed concert singers. It is a high-level choir with the most talented students at Ole Miss. They performed around the world and in 1998 and 2000, they won one of the most prestigious music directors in the world.
David Butts: Have you had occasion to purchase music that was never performed?
Jordan.: A tremendous amount of music that was never performed.
Jordan said most of his show choir experience is supervising show choir directors. He said early in his tenure at Ole Miss he directed the show choir and later on, others did.
As part of his job he went into school districts and evaluated choral programs. Sometimes he was asked to come in and more often it was informal.
Butts: Will you generally describe the undergraduate curriculum learned?
Jordan said it grew out of conservatory tradition. (emphasis on being performers). He said it is unfortunate because it weights things too much to voice and not enough on conducting. One course on choral methods.
He said it doesn’t include education on copyright law. Said there is no formal exposure at all. “I don’t believe I have ever seen a course on copyright law included on the syllabus.
Choral directors are told not to copy copyrighted music and that is generally the (Depth of knowledge on copyright law.).
Butts: Are your students trained to direct showchoirs?
Jordan: Only the musical rehearsal aspects of directing a show choir.
Jordan said they don’t receive any training in choreography or arranging music.
Butts: Would you agree graduates are not showchoir directors.
Jordan: I would agree with that. (Also that they are not choreographers or music arrangers).
Butts: Asks why directors are not trained in creating derivative works
Jordan: There are millions of pieces of choral music to select from. Also said there is not time to train them in arranging, it is a secondary skill. Said we often think of great composers and great conductors but they are often not the same person.
Butts: Are choral directors, do they arrange?
Butts: IS that a specialty outside of school activities?
Butts: Were you ever expected to arrange?
Jordan: I had my first high school teaching position in 1967 and supplements were already established as part of a teachers pay at that time. I was not expected to arrange (in any fashion. Said that supplements were intended for additional time needed to work with groups outside of school hours).
Butts directs Jordan to exhibit 26. It is a contract for employment with Mississippi Public School Districts.
Butts: Is it similar to contracts you have had with Ole Miss or other directs you have seen?
Butts: Would the descriptive term show choir director imply he was expected to arrange music?
Keith objects saying the witness has no knowledge of the terms of Ellis’ agreement with the school district. Compton overrules.
Butts: What does term show choir director mean?
Jordan: Typically, in my experience, it would never include choreography or arranging. He said after it is done, it may include sharpening it up, but in terms of arranging the music, it would not be considered part of their duties.
Butts asks Jordan about his familiarity with Tupelo School District choral program.
Jordan said that over the last 30 years there have only been one or two directors he has not personally trained.
Jordan said that the duties of those directors were to assign other choral directors to groups, to assign who is to teach what, to group students by ability level and to place in choirs according to their ability level, to develop the curriculum to determine (consistency) and to schedule events and determine how money is spent.
He said that student scheduling for choral students is difficult and frustrating because ability level and talent level does not necessarily correlate with grade level.
“It is difficult to do. It is a very intense area that every choral director goes to at the beginning of a school year.”
Butts: Do you know of any area where a choral director does not do the things you have enumerated?
Jordan said that Ellis was his student for three years. He said that Ellis was an exceptional student, always prepared. Probably the best baritone I had. Has a wonderful singing voice. Terrific conductor
“You could always count on Calvin. Always on time, very communicative.”
Butts: What was your opinion of him as a person?
Jordan: My opinion was the same. He is an exceptional person. What struck me about Calvin from the very beginning was how gentle and kind he was. I asked my wife if she remembered any events that would attest to Calvin’s character. She said every day was a testimony to Calvin Ellis’ character. I do remember two specific things that greatly impressed me. One was that Calvin volunteered to start the Oxford children’s chorus (Said Ellis never received any pay for this). He did an exceptional job with this group and there was no obligation for him to organize a civic choir (in addition to his studies)
Jordan said that in his last year he had to leave his job because he developed tinnitus in his ears and his ears rang. He needed hearing aids and knew it would be his last year. He became emotional in one of his rehearsals and had to leave. When he got home there was an email from Calvin.
“Calvin not only thanked me for my influence as a person and a teacher but he emphasized with me the things I may be feeling. It displayed great courage and character than an undergraduate would express those things with his professor.”
Jordan said since then he has seen Ellis at several choir reunions. He came to Tupelo and observed his choirs and performance. He has observed a rehearsal. He said he hadn’t had a great deal of correspondence but had had some emails.
Butts asked about the nature of the group’s performances.
Jordan: “I would say it was professional. Not what you would expect of a typical high school chorus.” He said sound was wonderful, performed difficult arrangements, choreography was precise and together and staging, costume and sets were excellent.
Butts asked what he noticed about Ellis.
“Calvin was a hero to his kids. He is very professional in the way he goes about his business. Kids responded to him as they had to to achieve that level of excellence, students had to be very responsive to a person such as Calvin?
Butts asks about crowd at performances. Jordan said the performances were packed and a lot of people expressed feedback afterward about how good of a job they felt Ellis was doing and about the support of Ellis’ wife. He said that a lot of community members would take Ellis’ children into their arms so that Ellis was not directed.
He said the reputation of Ellis’ showchoirs was superior and he was one of the best directors in the MidSouth.
Jordan said he also knew Jauna Ellis, that she was also a student at the same time as Ellis and that she sang in his wife’s women’s glee choir.
Butts asks his opinion of Ellis
Jordan: I always thought Calvin was a very upfront person. Calvin was a leader. If he felt like students in his baritone section needed to know something or needed clarification, he was the first to ask.
Butts: What is your opinion of Calvin Ellis’ ethics?
Jordan: I thought he was a very ethical person. He said he has never known Ellis to be dishonest and that he always found him to take responsibility where responsibility was do.
“Choral music directors spend an extraordinary amount of time well beyond their compensation. Being the heroes they are and the hero that Calvin Ellis was to his kids, it takes a selfless person to do what Calvin Ellis did in Tupelo.”
Jordan said the charges against Ellis appear to him to be a contrived laundry list of despicable rubbish that have absolutely no connection to Calvin Ellis expect in a couple of cases they charge him with doing exactly what he should have been doing.
Butts ends his examination and Jim Keith begins his cross.
Keith asks Jordan what knowledge he has of the nature of Ellis’ charges.
Jordan: The charge of manipulation of student schedules is exactly what Calvin Ellis should have been doing if he wanted students in the appropriate class.
Keith asks if Jordan knew that class had been assigned to another employee and that class was taken away from that teacher?
Jordan said he knew something to that effect.
Keith: You don’t know Calvin Ellis’ role in that do you?
Jordan said copyright violation charge was contrived. “In my opinion, I served on the Walton Music Corporation board for a number of years and I have some familiarity with how the industry works on copyright violations. I am no lawyer but I have been advised by lawyers on copyright violations but I am knowledgeable on fair use violation and as is practiced in the industry, any one who is trying to do right by copyright holder or publisher has no chance of being punished for violation of copyright law.
Keith: You are saying that because law said it is a violation to arrange without permission, you don’t have to worry about that law?
Jordan said the law is complex. Mentions fair use and educational exclusions. He said that as a practical matter, they are never going to be prosecuted (if they are making efforts to get permission).
Keith asks what it was by fair use that Ellis was not going to be charged. Butts objects.
Keith: Do you know what the specific violation was that Calvin Ellis had been charged with? Butts objects.
Compton said the witness already testified he was familiar with the charges.
Keith: What information do you have about the nature of the charge?
Jordan: As I understand the fair use provision, I am not a lawyer but as I have seen it play out, any choral director who is attempting to see an arranger or a copyright holder is fairly compensated (may be technically in violation but won’t be punished)
Jordan: That the district is exposed to any liability is laughable to me. Said publishers don’t want to go after schools when schools are making efforts to ensure that appropriate parties are fairly compensated.
Keith: Do you know what it is that Calvin Ellis is being charged with?
Jordan: As far as I am concerned he didn’t fail to do anything that led to charge number 1.
Jordan: What I have been told and what I have read is that Calvin was attempting to get the rights.
He said he heard that from several sources and that he read some of the newspaper articles.
Keith: Did Calvin tell you he had used songs he had arranged without getting permission from rights holder?
Jordan: The answer is no but it would not have been pertinent to me because it is commonly done.
HE said it means the person plans to cover themselves with the fair use issue. He said he knows that because it is commonly done.
Keith: Are you aware that if you are a repeat offender, there are violations in the law?
Jordan said he is not aware of that because he does not know that anyone has been violated for being a repeat offender.
Keith: Are you still saying it is OK?
Jordan: No. I am agreeing that as a practical matter the industry is not going to go after you but I am saying those provisions to which you refer are preempted in the minds of directors and most companies by the fair use policy.
Keith: Are they preempted in the law itself?
Jordan: That is my understanding.
Keith: What is it about charge number 2 that you believe is contrived?
Jordan: In the first place, the show could have gone on. The timely manner of business is not of great importance. He was seeking to get permission and whether that permission came just before the show or just after, in my view, is irrelevant.
Keith: You are not a lawyer. Would you advise a show choir director to go forward with a performance if there are songs in that performance that had been arranged without permission of rights holder?
Jordan said he would if they were seeking permission.
Keith: If they are seeking it, that does not mean they are going to get it, does it? Jordan: There is pretty good assurance that someone who is in the business to make money (is going to want to make money by selling those rights. He said there is a strong assurance you will get it but not absolute)
Keith: If someone believes you are deliberately taking their music, and using it, there is no assurance they will give you that permission?
Jordan: I suppose the literal answer would be yes, but it is so far from the realm of the likely that it is (not relevant).
Keith refers to song owned by Hendrix estate and that permission has still not been received.
Jordan said he is not familiar with that.
Keith asks if he would have still gone ahead with that Hendrix song.
Jordan said if he had done his best to compensate the rights holder, then he would have gone ahead.
Keith: You said you were employed at Ole Miss, when did you cease working at Ole Miss?
Jordan: 2001. It was Ellis’ third year in the program
Jordan said he has been in private business for 45 years. His private businesses were side to his teaching at Ole Miss.
Keith: In 2001, you were a professor at Ole Miss and had retired. At that point in time, had you done anything to keep up with the specifics of the show choir industry?
Jordan said he hadn’t kept up on a daily or weekly business but he has kept up with what has gone and he knows what the trends have been.
His primary involvement since 2001 has been to judge international choral competitions, work with community choirs and help at clinics. He said he has done little with show choirs.
Keith: You made a comment that when you ceased being a professor in 2001, there was little in the curriculum regarding copyright law?
Jordan said that was correct.
Keith asks if he knows about curriculum today?
Jordan said music educators find the law daunting and most find it even more daunting than he because he has had experience with a publishing company. He said most people in the field would leave it school districts to establish policies and the standards by which educational exclusions apply.
Keith said that since it is so daunting, wouldn’t it be a fair statement to ask those involved to make sure they know what they are doing.
Jordan said arranging has become much more common to the modern show choir. The primary concern for most of the time choral music has been in existence under copyright law has been that you don’t copy printed choral music (He said that is the biggest thing that was stressed).
Keith asks if arranging is a whole different issue. Jordan said in some respects it is.
Keith: If people are going to arrange music, you need to know there are copyright issues you need to be aware of
Jordan: I would be surprised that a choral director would not have an awareness he needs to comply with the law.
Keith: In order to comply with the law, you would seek advice from someone with knowledge of the law? Jordan said that would be the responsibility of the school district.
Keith: Are you aware there was another director in Tupelo who was obtaining permissions for songs for her group?
Jordan said no.
Keith: Are you aware that person successfully got permission?
Keith: are you aware that was also the person who told Mr. Ellis he needed to get permission for his songs as well?
Keith: Have you ever seen Calvin Ellis’ job description?
Jordan said just the documents placed in front of him.
Butts objects saying that if such a job description exists, he has never seen it.
Keith: When did you visit performances of Tupelo show choir?
Jordan: As recently as 2008-2009.
Keith: So the 2008-2009 show choir performance would have been about the second or third year, Mr. Ellis had been in the Tupelo school district?
Jordan: I believe he had been here longer than that, but I don’t know how long he had been doing show choir.
Jordan said the last performance he had seen could have been as late as 2010, but he thinks it was 2008-09.
Keith asks about subsequent contact with Ellis. Jordan said there have been three or four reunions that Ellis has attended.
Keith: What was it based on when you said Mr. Ellis was one of the top directors in the mid south?
Jordan: Conversations with other directors.
Keith asks if Jordan is familiar with any awards Ellis had won.
Jordan said no.
Keith asks what reputation Tupelo show choirs had before Ellis
Jordan: I would have to say generally the sophistication of the show choirs has become greater and greater here in Tupelo.
Keith: What about the overall choral music program?
Jordan: The overall choral music program has always been very good in Tupelo and Calvin has carried on that tradition if not improved it.
Keith asks if Jordan has any personal knowledge since 2001?
Jordan said he can see their performances and he knows what the quality is.
Keith: Back to the list of charges you said was contrived. Look at number 3. What do you know about allegations under number 3 and the booster club funds?
Jordan: Every major show choir in MS pays professional choreographers. As I previously testified, the timing of the copyright clearance is not an issue. Thousands of dollars are always spent on these show choirs.
Keith said he wants to know specifically what Jordan knows about allegation Ellis has squandered funds.
Butts objects saying that the charge is not specific and Jordan said what he knows. He said if we were dealing with some specificity, that might be a fair question.
Keith: My question is simple. I can read number 3 as well as Mr. Butts. My question for this witness is what knowledge do you have specifically about the charges regarding the booster club fund that you think is contrived.
Butts: That is not what the witness stated?
Compton: The question is what is his personal knowledge.
What knowledge do you have of Mr. Ellis squandering booster club funds?
Jordan: I don’t know that he squandered any booster club funds.
Keith: Do you know how he spent booster club funds.
Butts objects, saying Ellis isn’t the only one who spent booster club money.
Jordan: I have knowledge that funds were spent paying for professional choreography (and their out of state travel. He said that is all appropriate).
Keith: You do not know how many times songs had to be redone?
Jordan said he doesn’t specifically know how many times.
Keith: Did you read the testimony of the booster club individuals who have testified in this hearing?
Jordan: I have not read the testimony. I have read the first couple of days of blogs.
Keith: Have you read the testimony of Terri Stewart?
Jordan: I don’t remember it. I may have read it, but I don’t know the same.
Keith asks about charge 4.
Jordan said he knows it as it has been told to him by Ellis and Butts. He said one student was taught during the day.
Jordan: I think it is purely a technical violation, something that was a matter of convenience not a matter of practice and it caused no harm to anyone else.
Keith asks if it is OK to violate board policy with out getting permission for a principal.
Jordan: I think if a choral director ran to a principal every time he was going to spend 15 minutes doing something that might be questionable, the principal wouldn’t have time to do anything else.
Keith: I am asking if it is OK for a choral director to violate a school board policy?
Jordan: In this case yes.
Keith asks about the charge with students getting on the bus on the Birmingham trip. He asks about those students needing to ride in a car with parents. He asks if Jordan knows who was in charge of supervising those students?
Jordan: Ultimately Mr. Ellis.
Keith asks if he was aware of whether any Tupelo staff were with those students at the mall.
Jordan said no. He said he is aware of thousands of trips choral directors take with their students in which it is possible for the directors to be with all students all of the time without parental assistance.
Keith: Are you saying in that case it is OK to violate board policy?
Jordan: In that case, yes
Keith asks about charge 6. Jordan said he does not believe the allegations of number 6 are characteristic of what Mr. Ellis would allow to happen if he was aware.
Keith asks about 7. Jordan said he does not know anything about the running of laps.
Hearing takes a 10-minute break at 9:47 a.m.
Hearing resumes at 9:58 a.m.
Jordan said he has no knowledge of students running the laps.
Keith: Do you have any specific knowledge of allegations in number 8?
Jordan: My specific knowledge would be in general, rooms used by high school students…
Keith: I am asking you your specific knowledge of this incident. That is my question on each of these, what specific knowledge do you have?
Jordan said he has no specific knowledge.
Keith asks about 9. Jordan said it would be appropriate if Ellis had done that.
Keith asks about charge 10. Jordan said he had been told that Ellis had done that and it would be appropriate.
Keith asks who told Jordan. Jordan said several sources, maybe Ellis’ wife or Mr. Butts. He said he has only had one conversation with Ellis, about a 15-minute conversation about a week about. He said he had a telephone conversation with Mr. Butts and he also met with Mr. Butts on Saturday. He said that Butts did not go through each of the charges.
Jordan said he is not sure (if Butts gave him the charges). He said he read the article in the Tupelo paper about the charges and he heard from Ms. White Williams. He said he didn’t have to hear about them from anyone to know that they are without merit.
Keith: Are you saying it is OK to charge the booster club for songs and not use those songs?
Jordan said yes. Keith asks if he knows how much money was charged and Jordan said no.
Keith asks about 11. Jordan said that the duties of Ellis would not have covered everything required and that the booster club helps cover those things.
Keith asks about 12. Jordan he is aware of an instance where Ellis had been told a piece was cleared and he took that to mean permission had been gained.
Keith asks about 13. Jordan said he stands by his characterization of the charges He doesn’t need specific knowledge of each of the charges because he knows his characterization of Ellis as a person.
Same for 14.
Keith asks about 15. Jordan said he has specific knowledge. His understanding is that the children were not out after midnight, every description he had heard was that this was prior to midnight. He does not know what time the city curfew is but he knows this was an evening of an announced event and that parents apparently gave students permission to take their cars and go to MR. Ellis’ house. Given that parents knew students were out, I would assume they were better off in Mr. Ellis’ presence than not in his presence.
Keith asks if Jordan knew the students went to Walmart and Jordan said yes. Keith asks if he knows what the students purchased. Jordan said bananas, some kind of paint and condoms and that they threw these on cars.
Keith asks who told Ellis the event didn’t happen after midnight? Jordan said he had not read that it was after midnight.
Keith: The information you have on number 15 is what you have read and what you have been told. You have no personal knowledge. Jordan said he was not there.
Keith: Do you think that activity was OK?
Jordan: I think that activity would have required investigation and perhaps counseling of Mr. Ellis.
Keith asks if he has knowledge of number 16 and Jordan said no. Keith asks about number 17. Jordan: I have knowledge that while choral directors may serve on a board, their position on that is as a choral director not as a board member.
Keith asks if he had read bylaws and Jordan said no.
Jordan: I don’t need to read them to think this is a mountain made out of a mole hill…I don’t believe in hanging people over a technicality.
Keith: You think a violation of a bylaw is a technicality?
Jordan: I think violations of bylaws are violations of bylaws.
Keith: You haven’t read the booster club bylaws?
Keith: Do you think it is OK to violate those bylaws?
Jordan: I think bylaws are violated every day where it is clear to everyone they are not appropriate to a certain situation.
Keith asks about binding the school district to a contract. Jordan said choral directors bind a district by implied authority.
Keith asks about allegation 19. Jordan said he does have facts. He said he knows that Ellis came to Tupelo schools to work with Vicky Wilson, that they had a wonderful relationship and that she considered him her heir apparent and that he has never heard about Calvin being uncooperative to anyone.
Keith asks about specific facts on number 19. Jordan said he had no direct knowledge.
Jordan said he had no specific knowledge of 2. Number 3, no specific knowledge and would be uncharacteristic and that is takes two to tango. No specific knowledge to number 4.
Keith objects that the witness is editorializing
Jordan said the Madrigals class has traditionally been in the purview of the person in Ellis’ role.
Jordan: We can dismiss with all of these questions if it requires that I sat in the classroom. Everything I know is second hand.
Compton: You made statement that all of these charges are contrived. When you made that statement, I knew these questions were coming. If you have no specific knowledge say you don’t have it.
Jordan: I don’t have first-hand knowledge but that doesn’t prevent me from making a valid opinion on these charges.
Keith: When you retired from University of MS, was it a retirement, a resignation or were you asked to leave?
Jordan said he took an early retirement. Keith asks if there was more to that than the health issue. The Jordan said the health issue was a big reason and he was unhappy with the direction of the administration.
Keith asks if there were any allegations against him before he left.
Jordan said no.
Keith is finished his questions. Butts will begin his redirect in closed session. Hearing goes into closed session at 10:21 a.m.
Witness has reopened and Jordan is done with his testimony. The next witness is Carrie Haadsma.
Haadsma lives in Tupelo. She said she has six children, all from the same husband. (laughter).
She taught for 13 years in Michigan, high school.
She has a senior and a sophomore at Tupelo High School. “We’ve got 3 out and 3 in at my house.”
Butts: Have you been involved with the show choirs and with the booster club?
Haadsma said she has been bless with 13 years of kids being involved with show choirs, 13 ad campaigns, 13 times of kids putting on a show.
She said that she has been involved the whole time Ellis was involved.
Last year she was on the show choir board, which was a new thing. Prior to that she had gone to the general meetings. Her niche had been helping with the programs. That is a big undertaking and it has become her niche.
Butts: As a board member of the booster club, are you familiar with the way the booster club raises and spends money?
Haadsma said she is pretty aware of that.
Butts asks about how it generally happens
Haadsma said her understanding is that the budget is basically a guideline to where they need to be. Students must pay a fee to participate and there is also an ad campaign, those are the main fundraisers. Occasionally they have done other things to add to the pot.
Butts asks how large the budget had gotten
Haadsma said she didn’t know exactly but that it would be a pretty large budget.
Butts asks how budgeting was done by various committees. Haadsma said they set budget based on what they’ve done in the past. She said it is a guideline, they don’t vote on that and it is to give them an idea.
She said that the budget has never been voted on by the board since she was involved, since 2002.
She said the board never voted on individual expenditures. The only time she remembers things being voted on was for general chorus, such as for risers. Never for show choir.
Butts asks about Ellis’ role.
Haadsma: The show choir board, we were a support system for the director. He was the director, the artistic director. He was large and in charge. We were folks trying to help him in whatever way we could. We were just trying to do in his direction.
Butts: Was any public money every given to the booster club by the district?
Haadsma said no. She said all of the money was from fees and fundraising. She said that she has been involved with other booster clubs with other children. She said her job with the basketball boosters is just to give the coach whatever he needs and that is how she sees it with Ellis.
Butts asks about Ellis being paid by booster club for doing arrangements.
Haadsma said he was.
Butts if Haadsma ever heard complaints about that arrangement.
Haadsma said the thought was that if we were going to pay someone to arrange a song, it would be good to pay Calvin because it would be cheaper and that it would be better to pay him than an outside arranger. She said that if people were upset with things like that, she wished someone had discussed it with her.
“It is my idea we try to work things out among ourselves before you go on to bigger things.”
She said that last year when it originally came up, no one was unhappy with it to her knowledge.
Butts asks about songs being rearranged that someone had already arranged.
Haadsma said she doesn’t think that is what happened. She said that Ellis would arrange a song and then pay another arranger to help work it in, to get the best song possible.
Haadsma said she didn’t hear any complaints about that at the time.
Butts asks if anyone ever brought to her a complaint that songs had to be rechoreographed
Haadsma said no and that she does not know of it being brought to the board.
“A lot of times you get mommas with one or two children who are used to having a real opinion on the activities their children are in (She said one of the blessings of having six kids is that they learn the world is not going to revolve around them. She said that choreography they would bring someone in and sometimes they would need to rework it. She said she thought it was great that whatever he needed to do, he had the expertise).
Butts: Are you familiar with any allegation that Mr. Ellis was improperly charging the booster club for anything?
Butts: What do you know about the credit card?
Haadsma: I didn’t know a whole lot. That was something I had heard one time in passing, maybe there was some food charged and the receipts didn’t come in so the decision was made to do away with the credit card.
Butts asked whether there were allegations Ellis had done anything improper with it? Haadsma said no. She said it wasn’t a charge, more of a conversation.
Butts why would booster club money be spent to pay choreographers
Haadsma: When you invite someone in, you pay for their food….I thought it was right and gracious to pay for people who came to Tupelo.
Butts: Do you know the hours worked during choreography?
Haadsma said long hours and very intense. She said it was normal to have food and normal to feed Mr. Ellis if he was there. She said the basketball booster club feeds people.
She said she would honestly feel bad if they didn’t (pay for the food) and she means that sincerely.
Butts: Are you familiar Mr. Ellis would have to provide transportation to the choreographers to the airport?
Haadsma said yes
Butts asks if she would have an objection to Ellis using the credit card to pay for gas
Haadsma said obviously not.
Butts: If Mr. Ellis had his child with him and used the credit card to purchase a Happy Meal for his child, would you find that objectionable?
Haadsma said any sane person would not think that would be a big deal and she would be happy to purchase an occasional Happy Meal for his kids.
Butts asks about committees. Haadsma said there were probably six or eight. She said Ellis was in charge of all of them, but that he concentrated on the music and the show and he left the other committees to do their things.
She said that the show choir board was trying to police all of these people. “We tried to hold them (the other committees) more accountable.”
Butts: What if they went over budget?
Haadsma: We didn’t have any authority over them, so the money would have to come from somewhere else.
Butts: Had you heard costume budget had been increased this year? Haadsma said she had because not enough money had been set aside in previous years.
Butts asks how Tupelo’s budget compared to other show choirs? Haadsma said it is actually much smaller.
Butts asks if Ellis dictated to the booster club what it could and couldn’t do. Haadsma said no. She said he would tell them what was needed and the booster club would do that. She said that Ellis was different than her, that he was more of the pie in the sky than the stick in the mud.
Butts asks if Haadsma is familiar with the NY trip.
She said she was. She said she was the stick in the mud.
Haadsma said that they had the opportunity to go to NY and they tried to do it and did several fundraising opportunities.
Butts: Did that trip fall through?
Haadsma: It did fall through. I was probably the one who wasn’t high on his list at that time because I didn’t think we would have the money to do that. (She said Ellis never held that against her. She said she was fine with trying to make the trip happen but that in the end it never happened).
Haadsma said Ellis was getting really wooed by the company that was putting it on and they were trying to entice Ellis to make the trip, offering to cut the cost and get sponsors. She said she thought it would have been inappropriate to not pursue those opportunities.
Butts: During this process for the NY trip, were you aware whether official approval had been given for the trip?
Haadsma: I can’t remember now…..I thought it had been, but I just don’t know.
Butts: Would you have knowledge of the process in trying to plan for a trip in that Calvin would have to see if there was interest in a trip before getting approval.
Keith objects, says Butts is leading the witness.
Butts asks her to describe the process.
Haadsma: He had the opportunity and he called us together as a board. We were excited about the thought, but we thought it would (be tremendously difficult to get the money. Haadsma said that she as the naysayer recommended surveying the parents first to see whether there was interest)
Butts: Were you aware it was inappropriate, or against school policy for Mr. Ellis to say anything about the trip without getting approval from the administration for the trip?
Ellis: How did Mr. Ellis treat your kids?
Haadsma: Mr. Ellis treats every child like they matter and like they are important to him. It really is a sight to behold. (He walks through the hallway and scoops up the kids and asks how they are doing). He really treats them like they are a precious gem, which they are.
Butts asks how kids respond to him.
Haadsma said they respect him. Said it is a love-hate relationship. Said they love him but sometimes he tightens the screws before a performance. She said the statements of the kids on Facebook and the number of likes on the Team Ellis page is an example of how much they like him.
Butts asks if Ellis plays favorites.
Haadsma said no except maybe for the kids at the bottom of the barrel. She mentions her daughter who was in Sound Wave as a freshman and sophomore and took lessons from Jauna but was placed in Sound Wave and not Wave Connection as a junior. Haadsma said she thought Ellis should put him there and that it would be an opportunity for him to play favorites because he likes her momma, but that he didn’t play favorites. The next year she did make Wave Connection.
Butts asks if Ellis played favorites for the students who took lessons from Mrs. Ellis.
Haadsma said the first year her daughter took lessons, Mrs. Ellis said she would love to give her lessons but that she couldn’t close to the show choir auditions because it would not be appropriate.
Butts asks if Haadsma had ever heard that parents would pay Ellis money to give their kids a better position in show choir.
Haadsma said she had not heard that and that if she did hear that she would be suspicious of it.
Butts asks about parents who have a hard time paying and what Ellis would do about that.
Haadsma said she has had a hard time paying it before. She said it is a fine line because you need people to pay them but she would have thought less of him as a person if he would have looked someone in the eye and told them they were out because they didn’t pay their fees.
Butts asks if she ever saw Ellis discriminate against a person because of financial position, race or social status. Haadsma said not at all.
She said that Ellis looks at the whole child and that is what makes him great. He wants what is best for each individual child.
She is thinking of a white child who kept not showing up for practice and he was asked to leave. A couple of weeks later, she saw that child on stage crew. She said Ellis told her that child really wanted to be back and it was better for that person to be on stage crew than out on the streets so he let him back.
Butts: What has been the overall experience for the kids, parents, community?
Haadsma: I’ve always thought the show choir was not about the singing and the dancing….It is the whole idea of working toward a common goal and the camaraderie you build up and the kinship working toward a common goal. It has been an integral part in the formation of my kids.
One of her sons who is a senior at Ole Miss tried out as a freshman in high school to met girls. Mr. Ellis infused him with a love of music and this boy is a singer, a musician, plays keyboard and guitar.
“This kid grew from the whole experience and his appreciation for music is so much bigger than being in show choir.”
Butts: I want to ask you about some of the charges. Do you know whether Mr. Ellis has ever squandered booster club funds?
Haadsma: I have not know that he squandered any funds.
Butts: Have you ever known him to endanger students on a field trip to Alabama or elsewhere?
Butts asks about him neglecting students to have to get food on streets of Birmingham. Haadsma said no
Butts asks about trashing room in Petal?
Haadsma: My son was one of the ones on that trip. He tells me absolutely, they did not trash the room.
Butts asks about them not being invited back to Petal. Haadsma said she has knowledge of that but thinks it was more because of Petal’s jealousy or the rivalry.
In response to questions, Haadsma said she has never know Ellis to intimidate or coerce student not to attend class.
Butts asks about hair and makeup night. She said her understanding was that it was a social event that didn’t need school approval.
Butts: Would you be surprised if the kids pranked each others’ cars during such an event?
Butts: I’m sure you may have heard of this prank and the use of several kids of items. One that is repeatedly mentioned is the use of condoms. What is your opinion of that and what is your reaction?
Haadsma: That night, the girls came to my house. At 11 or 11:15 I got a call from a girl (said come down here to the cul-de-sac). They had turned up the music and were dancing and you could see they were excited.
She said they told me they were going to prank the boys. She said call me a bad parent but she didn’t mind that. She said there were other things they could have done, a bad school dance or parties in the field. She is glad they weren’t doing that. Honored they called her to go outside and see them.
“We are one of the most conservative families in Wave Connection so I would think I am a credible source. I have boys. When boys retaliate, they think what can we do that will really embarrass the girls…They bought condoms and out it on the cars…IT was obvious they were going for a reaction they got….It has all been blown out of proportion....They were being goofy boys.
Haadsma said her understanding is that Ellis didn’t know they were doing that.
Butts asks about Ellis being paid by the booster club. He asks if she is familiar with booster club rule that members are not to be compensated.
She said know she is but she took that to mean that you are not to be paid for being on the board not that you are not going to be paid for anything.
Butts asks if in being paid for arranging, Ellis was doing something directors had done for years. Haadsma said yes.
Butts asks about Stewart. Haadsma said Terri Stewart would be the only one with access to money and with the authority to write a check.
Butts finishes his examination.
Hearing takes a short break at 11:20 a.m.
Keith begins his cross examination.
Keith: Do you have any familiarity with whether the booster club has paid any directors for arranging?
Haadsma said she does not have any knowledge that they had done that.
Keith asks which board Haadsma was on. She said she was on the show choir board.
Keith: That was the board that was hand-picked by Mr. Ellis for the sole purpose of overseeing show choir activities? Haadsma said that was correct.
She said she did not serve on the general booster board. The show choir board no longer exists, it disbanded at the end of the 10-11 school year. She said that board existed to try to be a help with the director and do some of the logistics.
Keith: Did you attend booster club meetings?
Haadsma: I assume I did, but I can’t swear to that. They have a general meeting, they have two or three a year.
Keith: The show choir board, you attended those meetings?
Haadsma: Not every meeting but yes.
Keith: Were you there the night the NY trip was cancelled?
Haadsma said she thinks she was but she was not sure if that was the exact one.
She said the board did not take a vote on that. She said they told Ellis they didn’t have the money and couldn’t go on the trip.
Keith: You were aware he continued to work on efforts to make trip happen any way?
Haadsma said yes.
Keith asked if he discussed that with the entire board or just with her?
Haadsma said it is hard for her to remember exactly what she knew when but that she would imagine he had told the whole group. Keith asks if he told the whole group at a meeting. Haadsma said she is not sure.
Keith asked about whether Haadsma had read bylaws. She said she had. She said this year’s bylaws are new because there was a different board.
Keith asks if the purpose of paying Ellis to arrange songs was to save money.
Haadsma said potentially, yes.
Keith asks if she knew how Ellis’ fees compare to other arrangers. Haadsma said she does not know.
Keith: On credit card issue, are you aware of receipts not being turned in in a timely manner?
HAadsma said she remembered hearing the treasurer say something about that. She said that she was also treasurer of a junior auxiliary club and she would not for anything if she didn’t get a receipt. She said people made that mistake one time.
Butts asks what credit card was used for. Haadsma explained. Keith: Every one of those expenditures lent itself to having a receipt?
Haadsma said treasurer should have tracked that down.
Keith asks if she knows board policy for field trips. Haadsma said she is not.
Keith: Are you familiar with who makes decision on who gets into Wave Connection?
Haadsma: They perform before judges. There is a scoring system. (MR. Ellis does it with others who are trained in that).
Keith: It is more than Ellis who makes the decision? Haadsma said yes. She said she would imagine Ellis has sway on who gets in but she doesn’t know exactly how the process worked.
Keith asked about the $750 fee to be in show choir Haadsma said it was paid in installments.
Keith: Was the board made aware of students who were not meeting their financial obligations?
Haadsma said Stewart was the only one who knew but she would tell them numbers of folks, not who they were.
Keith: You said it was the right thing to do to allow people an extension of those opportunities if they couldn’t pay to do it?
Haadsma said yes, it is a balancing act.
Keith: Kids know about the fees going in, don’t they?
Haadsma said there is (a certain obligation). She said some kids worked the whole school year to get their money. She said they were trying to work with people even though they liked to have the money by September when they had to pay their fees/
Keith: Would you agree with me it was unfair to let those folks in when they couldn’t pay when there is someone who just missed the cut who could pay.
Haadsma said she thinks it is a balancing act. She said if it was a deal breaker for someone, she wishes someone would have told her. They would have sent an email to parents asking them to contribute for that child.
Keith: But if you have too many kids who can’t meet their obligation, it would be a strain on the program?
Haadsma: It would be, but that is not the situation we are referring to.
Keith asks if Haadsma was there for the competition at Petal. She said she wasn’t there but her son told her it never happened.
Haadsma said she hadn’t heard about it previously.
Keith asked if Haadsma had heard a Petal administrator talked to Elis about the incident. She said she hadn’t until recently.
Keith asked about the girls coming by Haadsma’s house before pranking the boys.
Haadsma said they told her there were some guys at Mr. Ellis’ house and they were going to prank their cars.
Keith: Who was supervising the girls?
Haadsma: My child is 17. When she is at my house, I don’t even supervise her much. Ms. Jauna was with her. I just thought it was the coolest thing this adult was hanging out with the kids….(She told her husband about it the next day)….I just thought it was a really neat memory.
Keith: With regard to what Mr. Ellis knew or didn’t know that night, you didn’t have any knowledge at all did you?
Keith: Do you know whether there were any Tupelo staff people involved in that Friday night event other than Mr. Ellis
Haadsma: I don’t know
Keith: You characterized the boys decision as a dumb decisions, was that in what they purchased?
Keith: What should an adult have done about hat dumb decision.
Haadsma said it would be a problem if he paid for it with the credit card.
“When you are dealing with teenagers you make a 100 decisions in 20 minutes and you do the best you can.”
She would have never told her child to buy condoms and put it on a girls car but if that was the worst thing he had done, “we’re in business.”
Keith: Who knew MR. Ellis was being paid by booster club to arrange music?
Haadsma: Probably booster board.
No one called me and said we just sent a check, but I knew that was our understanding.
She said she didn’t know how much he would be charging the booster club.
Keith: Were you aware that the music and choreography budget was consistently over budget?
Haadsma: Not necessarily. I hadn’t thought about that.
Keith asks about different committees. Do you know which of those committees were overbudget?
Haadsma: I know we had issues with the costumes and sometimes we had issues with the sets, but I think they got the message to stay under whatever amount we gave them.
Keith: You said, you expect Mr. Ellis to be the in charge person and you were there to support?
Keith: Does that mean he was the one making decisions? Haadsma said he made some objections/
Keith asks if she disagreed with him on his decisions. She said that on things like choreography she felt like that wasn’t her decision.
Keith: Do you know which of the songs Mr. Ellis arranged were not used in the performance?
Haadsma said she doesn’t. Keith asked if she looked whether Ellis was a better deal than outside arrangers. Haadsma said she didn’t. She said that if the treasurer didn’t think it was a good deal, she would have told them.
Keith: You mentioned Tupelo budget is much smaller than comparable programs?
Haadsma said she doesn’t know but that she had heard that.
Keith: Do you know order of magnitude?
Haadsma said she heard Attache’s sets were $30,000.
Keith: Do you know what budget was for show choir program?
Haadsma around $100,000. Said she doesn’t know for sure.
Keith: Whatever it is, it is a significant amount of money? Haadsma said yes.
Keith asks if that is why they had to look closely at expenditures. Haadsma said yes but that it wasn’t because they thought money was being spent in an inappropriate way.
Keith: You were asked questions earlier about the process for determining interest in a field trip and how that fits with board policy. Do you recall on that NY trip, did the show choir board vote to have Mr. Ellis spend $1,000 on a non-refundable deposit?
Haadsma said they didn’t vote but that Mr. Ellis discussed that. She said obviously they knew it was a chance they were going to take.
Keith: That was a decision the entire board made?
Keith: One of the questions, you were asked was about Ellis’ treatment of children. Were you at a lot of the practices?
Haadsma said not a whole lot. She said that in during programs, when handling money she would be there 3 or 4 hours that night. Sometimes she would need information or sometimes she would bring food but she wouldn’t just hang out there.
Keith: Had you seen Mr.Ellis discipline kids?
Haadsma: I had seen him give talks where they had to buckle down and focus.
Keith: Did you see him make child run laps?
Haadsma: I was not there but I did have a child who had to run those laps…I did not have a problem with that in the least.
Keith finishes and Butts begins redirect.
She said her daughter Colleen participated in hair and makeup night and that she had Haadsma’s permission to be there.
Butts: Did your permission for her to attend also extend to permission for her to go to Walmart?
Haadsma: Yes, my child, when she goes out on a Friday night to some place, she is a fabulous child, she lets us know what is going on. She goes to Sonic sometimes. Walmart is great.
Butts: Did that include pranking boys cars
Haadsma: Yes. I actually told her to go for it (laughter)….Said she told kids they could roll people’s houses but it could never be damaging and it could only be people they liked. It could not be people they didn’t like.
Butts: Did your permission extend to your child being out after midnight as long as there was an adult present?
On questioning, Haadsma said she did not convey to Ellis or Mrs. Ellis that her daughter had permission to go to Walmart.
Haadsma’s testimony is completed.
Hearing takes a lunch break at 11:59 a.m. until 1:20 p.m.
This break gives me an opportunity to note something that happened at the beginning of the hearing that I hadn’t yet had a chance to note.
Before the hearing began this morning, Hearing Officer John Compton issued a ruling on the testimony of Lynne Johnson from Feb. 3. Jim Keith had made a motion that day that Johnson’s testimony should be stricken from the record because she had read the transcript of the hearing on the Daily Journal’s blog and had not thus been properly sequestered.
Compton ruled that her testimony should be stricken but that it can be offered in its entirety as proffer.
Butts said that he objected to that for a number of reasons. He said that even thought he had requested detailed facts about the charges against Ellis, he was not given that or able to determine whom he would need to call as witnesses.
“I would not presume to have the authority to tell any witness who is a member of this community or is a taxpayer that they are prohibited from seeking out any source of information they desire….
There is simply no way to try to insulate witnesses or potential witnesses from information. I believe they have constitutional right to be informed on any information they so choose.
I respectfully disagree with your ruling on that issue.”
Compton: “For the record the blogs have been fairly extensive, almost verbatim testimony of the witnesses and that is the reason for my ruling.”
Hearing resumes. David Butts presents an affadavit with testimony from a Mr. Whitney Williams (I think that was the name, I will double check when I am able). Butts said that Williams presented his testimony by affadavit because of his busy schedule but that he can be here for cross examination.
Next wintess is Amy Mercier.
She said she has a son in Wave Connection. Butts asks if he participated in a social gathering at Ellis’ house on Sept. 30 last year. She said he did.
Butts: Are you familiar with that type of gathering?
Mercier: Last year was his first year in Wave Connection, so yes. She said his junior year. This is his senior year.
Butts: You are appearing here today on your own behalf?
Butts: Are you also appearing on behalf of parents of other students who were at Ellis’ house?
Mercier: I am.
Keith objects, saying she can’t be here on behalf of other people.
Compton said that she can’t be on behalf of other people but she can say what she has heard from others.
Mercier said she had contacted the parents of the other boys and that she asked them if their boys had permission to participate. She said that she asked them for permission to speak for them. She said she contacted seven parents.
Butts: Did you reach any parent who did not want you to speak for them?
Mercier: I did.
Butts: Out of eight sets of parents, seven of them gave you permission and one didn’t?
Butts: Did you child have your permission and your husband’s permission to be at this event?
Mercier: He did
Butts: Were you aware your child would go to Walmart that night?
Mercier: I was not aware of it but it is fine.
Butts: Would you have objection to your son participating in a prank?
Mercier: Not at all.
Butts: Was your son free to go anywhere appropriate in Tupelo that night?
Mercier: He was
Butts: With respect to the time of day, did your son and Mr. Ellis have permission for your child to be out after midnight, if in fact they were?
Butts: These other parents, did they affirm to you their son had permission to be at this event?
Mercier: They did
She said they did not express any objection to their son being at Walmart .
Butts: Did you ask these parents whether they had any objection to their son participating in a prank?
Mercier: I did ask them and they said they didn’t have any problem
Butts: Did you ask them if they had any objection to their son being out after midnight, if they were out after midnight?
Mercier: I did ask them and they did not have any problem with that.
Butts asks her feelings on the items used in the prank.
Mercier: I didn’t think too much about it. I think it has been blown out of proportion…It is teenage boys being teenage boys.
Butts: What did other parents tell you about the items being used?
Mercier: I think they felt like I did It was boys being boys and it has been blown out of proportion.
Butts tendered the witness.
Keith begins his cross examination.
Keith asks if she has served on the booster board. She said no. She did serve on the show choir hospitality committee.
Keith: You said your child was involved with an event prior to last year, do you know what that activity involved the prior year?
Mercier said she does not recall. Keith asked if they went to Ellis’ house and she said she didn’t remember.
Keith: When your son went to Mr. Ellis’ house, did you have any idea he was going to leave with Mr. Ellis and some other young men to go to Walmart?
Mercier: I did not.
Keith: You did not give him permission to go to Walmart?
Mercier: He has permission to come and go.
Keith: Did you give Mr. Ellis permission to take your son to Walmart?
Mercier: No, I did not.
Keith: You did not know there was going to be a prank pulled?
Mercier: I did not.
Keith: You did not call Mr. Ellis and tell him your son had permission to be out after midnight?
Mercier: No, I did not call Mr. Ellis.
Keith: Are you aware if any parent conveyed any permission to Mr. Ellis to take their son to Walmart to buy any of the items mentioned?
Mercier: I do not know of any conversation.
Keith: Did any parent tell you they were aware that a prank was going to occur?
Keith: Did any parent convey to Mr. Ellis that he had permission to take their son to Walmart after midnight?
Keith: If in that trip to Walmart that night with the other young men and Calvin Ellis, who would you be looking to hold responsible if there had been an accident and your son had been injured?
Butts objects to the form of that question and rejects to it as a hypothetical. Compton overrules.
Mercier: It depends on what kind of accident it is. If a car ran into his car, it would be the other person’s responsibility.
Keith: Do you believe Mr. Ellis was supervising your child while he was out?
Mercier: Well, I guess so.
Butts beings his redirect.
Butts: When you granted permission for your son to go to the social event, what permission did you believe you were granting?
Mercier: They went to see the Ole Miss choral group and then all of the boys gathered at Calvin’s as a bonding gathering for all of the boys to get together.
Butts: It has been asked whether you called Mr. Ellis and gave explicit permission to go to Walmart or participate in a prank, but what was the extent of your permission?
Mercier: He had permission to be at the Ellis’ (for what happened that night)
Mercier said her son can drive and that he has permission to go where he drives.
Butts: Has anyone informed you that your son may have been in violation of curfew law?
Butts is finished with Mercier and her testimony is complete.
Butts calls Ellis to the stand.
Butts takes Ellis through his background. He has two children. He grew up in Memphis went to high school in Millington, Tenn., and went to Ole Miss from 1998 to 2002. He interned (or student taught) at Ole Miss from August 2002 to December 2002. He worked with Vicky Wilson, Debbie Bullock and Quinton Harris. He was mainly under the supervision of Vicky Wilson.
He taught a few pieces to the concert choir and shadowed Mr. Quint Harris and his involvement with the show choirs.
Butts: During your undergraduate studies, did you study copyright law?
Ellis: No sir. He said the music department did not offer any courses on copyright law. Said his instructors did not lecture about copyright law.
Butts asks how Ellis came to know Dr. Jordan. Ellis said he recruited at his high school and that he came to know him during his involvement with the concert singers. The only class he had under him was choir.
Butts: During your studies at Ole Miss, did you learn to arrange songs?
Ellis: No sir. (During music theory courses you learn how vocal parts come together but that was the extent of it).
Butts asks where he went after graduation.
Ellis: Hamilton Middle School in Memphis City School District in the middle of the year. He was there for a semester.
After that he went to a middle school in Arlington, Tenn. He was there for three years.
Ellis: My experience at Shadowlawn was great. He said he went out and recruited kids to the program. By the end of his tenure they had 180 kids, including a show choir. They competed on regional and national level. His first year, his show choir won first place at a national competition in St. Louis. His second year they went to Atlanta and placed in a competition. His final year, they participated in another national competition….His treble choir won best in class award…..They ran this festival every week over six weeks. At the end of the competition, they evaluated all of the scores and his treble choir had the best scores.
Under questioning. Ellis said he was happy in Arlington, was satisfied with the support he received and satisfied with the work and the community. He said no disciplinary action was taken against him.
Butts asked how his job at Tupelo came along. Ellis said that Quint Harris was leaving and Vicky Wilson and Mac Curlee invited him to come to Tupelo in February 2006 to meet with them and talk about the position. He knew the program was stellar and he knew the reputation of Tupelo’s choirs. He was torn because he had had a wonderful experience in Arlington and he didn’t know if he wanted to give that up.
HE wanted to be a director of a high school program because as a middle school director you are somewhat limited. He was torn but decided to take the job.
Ellis was hired in August 2006 and was under the supervision of Vicky Wilson.
Butts directs him to his contract for the 2011-12 year.
Butts: IS that contract substantially the same as all of your previous contracts
Ellis: Yes sir
Ellis said job description is music teacher and his supplement description is choral director.
Ellis said his contract never had arranging music in it as part of his job description.
Butts asks Ellis if he ever told the district that he was an arranger and Ellis said no. Butts asks if Ellis was ever told by the administration that his job description included arranging?
Butts: Did Vicky Wilson or anyone ever tell you that your job included arranging?
Butts: When did you first learn that your job including arranging?
Ellis: Dec. 5, 2011, the first day of the hearing.
Butts: Who said that?
Ellis: Mr. Meadows.
Butts asks if Quint Harris left him a book about show choir when he left. Ellis said yes, he describes the book, saying it was an informational book about directing show choir. He said the book didn’t say anything about the need for arranging. He said it contained numbers for the arrangers Harris used.
“There was no mention of copyright permissions in that book.”
Butts: Are you aware of any copyright compliance policy of the Tupelo School District?
Ellis: No sir
Butts: Describe how your job as choral director went for the next few years in Tupelo?
Ellis: I had a great expereiecne. I wouldn’t say every moment was great but overall my experience working as assisntat choral diretor under Vicky Wilson was great. We didn’t agree on every aspect but we were able to talk about it and work in a way that was best for students (He said he helped Ms. Wilson and Ms. Bullock and they helped him). He said he was responsible for show choirs but Vicky Wilson helped him as she could.
“It was a great experience. We had a wonderful experience.”
Butts: Did I ask you to prepare a document describing the awards of your choirs and show choirs up until the time of your termination?
Butts: Hit the highlights of what your choirs have accomplished
Ellis: In 2006-07, the 9th and 10th grade choir received superitor rating at district and state levle. He directed one song for 11th grade choir. Co directed with Vicky Wilson.
Wave Connection his first year received a grand champion award at a competition in Nashville. His first year he was voted as Mr. Teach THS, which is voted by the students.
Every year, they received superiors at district and state and superiors in sight reading.
In 07-08, a very awesome accomplishment, I feel, the Sound Wave group that year was particularly superb. They made the finals at both competitions which is not something that normally happens. SoundWave did and actually placed higher than Wave Connection at one of the competitions.
In 08-09, Wave Connection was first runner up in Nashville. Biggest accomplishment was Wave Connection was grand champion at Petal competition and swept all of the captions. Sound Wave also won a grand champion award that year. The Structure band received the most outstanding instrumental combo award.
I was nominated for teacher of distinction and Wave Connection was featured in the Entertainment Weekly publication as one of the nation’s top show choirs in which the Show Glee was featured.
In 2009-10, Wave Connection was first runner up in both competitions and Sound Wave was grand champion at both of those.
Last year, to be invited to the competition in New York was a great honor. Only 30 schools in the nation got an invitation and Wave Connection was one of those. The choirs continued to do well in district and state.
Madrigals, he took varsity choir to festival at Ole Miss and they received superiors as did Madrigals.
Butts: Did your wife Jauna make any contribution to show choirs?
Ellis: I can’t describe how important it is for anyone who takes the show choir position at any school to have their spouse support the efforts it takes to have a successful program.
Butts: Have I asked you to create a list of her contributions?
Ellis: Yes you have
Butts: How much was your wife paid?
Ellis: Absolutely nothing, it was all volunteer.
Butts: What did she do?
Ellis: There were a few times she spent her own money on Wave Connection kids. She bought samples of makeup and tried them out on the kids. She bough hair samples and jewelry and tried them out. She bought food and snacks for the parties and the gathering sand made brownies. The timing she put in to make sure those gatherings were worthwhile for the kids. On Sept. 23, had happies for the boys and the girls. She has bought flowers for the kids when they were performing at events around town. She has written tons of thank you notes to kids for contributions they made to show choir. She bought journals one year for the girls, little pins for the girls.
Butts: Did she contribute to the success of your show choir?
Ellis: Every year after a competition, I would get started on the next competition. It is a 12-month process. We would sit at computer for hours and hours listening to music. Ellis said he is the choral person and his wife knows more about pop and she would recommend songs. He said his wife helped with costumes for both show choirs. Ellis said she did not do it the first year but he wanted her to do it because they had some difficulties making sure they had the right things. Ellis said Jauna knew what would look good on every single person, for every single body type
Butts: What is her education?
Ellis: Bachelor of fine arts in theater and a minor in music?
Butts asks how many hours she put in. Ellis said he didn’t know, well over 1,000 hours.
Butts: The Tupelo Public School District got her contribution for free?
Butts: anything else you want to say about her contribution
Ellis said she put on a free camp for under privileged kids on things like stage presence. He said that Jauna would often wake up at 5 in the morning to pick up a choreographer and take her to Memphis. One time a flight was cancelled and Jauna’s parents put the choreographer up in their home and drove that person to the airport.
Ellis: Never did I turn in a receipt for them to be reimbursed for gas. They didn’t want to be reimbursed for gas. To be treated in a way that I don’t care about the boosters or the money they spent, it infuriates me when I think of all of the things I’ve done to contribute to this program.
Ellis talked about the sacrifices he’s had to make for the job, time away from his kids.
Butts: You testified how your choruses scored but are awards and scores what this show choir is about?
Ellis: Absolutely not. The most important part of any choral program is the experience of team work. Learning the foundations of music, allowing music to inspire you and move you to a point…..IT is our job to communicate with an audience and if the audience is not moved, we are not doing our job.
IT is how we feel we are communicating with an audience and those are the experiences that matter most.
Butts refers Ellis to his termination letter.
Butts: Have you found anywhere in this termination letter that you were fired for giving students condoms
Ellis: Absolutely not
Keith objects that Butts is leading the witness
Butts: Have you found anywhere in this letter where you were fired for allowing your students to get condoms
Ellis: Absolutely not
Butts: Have you found anywhere in this that you were fired for pranking cars
Ellis: Absolutely not
Butts: Is there any charge you have seen that you were fired by allowing students to engage in sexually-suggestive activities?
Ellis said no
Keith objects that he is leading the witness and just asking him questions he can answer yes or no. Butts said the point he is trying to make is that there is not one mention of the word condom in the charges against Ellis. However, he said, most of the testimony brought to attention that Mr. Ellis was being charged with condom in some way associated with condoms. We are trying to find it in the termination letter?
Keith: In response to item 15, Mr. Ellis went into specific detail about it. I don’t think there is any question Mr. Ellis knew what that involved.
Butts said nowhere in the letter is any charge for condoms or any charge with an improper relationship with any student.
Compton said that the letter is clear but that is something he can make a point of when he has the opportunity to argue before the school board.
Butts: For this event at your home, did you have prior administration approval?
Ellis: No sir
Butts: For prior years, had you had this event every year?
Ellis said he considered this a social event and in the past when he had social events, it was never approved by the school board.
Butts: As far as the prank, were you aware condoms were going to be used?
Ellis: I did not know condoms were purchased or were going to be used. I only know it was discussed the possibility of purchasing them.
Butts: What was your response to that?
Ellis: I told them that condoms were not to be purchased.
Ellis said he told them not to do it but they did it anyway and he found out afterward.
Butts asks how far Ellis was away from the prank while it was occurring. Ellis said it was like 150 yards. From that house, to get to the Whitwell house, you have to go down a hill, around a corner and down a hill some more. He does not know the exact distance
Butts: Could you see the prank being performed?
Ellis” Absolutely not.
Butts: There has been talk about you keeping these boys out after curfew, is that correct?
Butts gives Ellis a copy of Tupelo’s curfew ordinance. He directs him to 19-54, exceptions. Further directs him to sub paragraph 2 and asks him to read it.
Ellis said it is when a minor is accompanied by an adult for a designated period of time and for a designated purpose (I didn’t get the entire language of it down).
Butts: You were placed on administrative leave on Oct. 6, 2011, is that right?
Ellis said yes. He said he was subsequently fired on Oct. 28, 2011.
Butts brings him exhibit 86. He said it is a Tupelo Public School District Board Policy KEB (or KED?). Public concerns about complaints. Have you read this policy?
Ellis: Recently I have yes
Butts: From reading this policy, what is your understanding”
Ellis There is supposed to be a chain of command where the person who has a complaint goes to the principal and the principal directs the employee and that person to work out of the problem. If there is no resolution (a decision would be made on how to proceed)
Butts notes that the policy calls for a conference and said that the principal is to make a written report of that conference. Then if there is no resolution, that person can go to the superintendent and attach memorandum of meeting from principal. Superintendent is then to investigate those facts and notify both parties in writing.
Butts: Was that followed for any charge?
Ellis: No I never had a meeting with my principal about any charge against me other than when I went to him because I heard there was an investigation.
Butts: were you afforded any of the procedures stated in Tupelo Public School District policy KEB?
Ellis: No sir
Butts asks if he (Butts) wrote a letter to Ms. Stimpson requesting a meeting. Ellis said he did but that meeting wasn’t granted.
“I really wanted to get back to Tupelo High School to establish normalcy to that program and I asked you to write a letter to Ms. Stimpson to sit down and talk about any complaints and we were not awarded that meeting at all.”
Butts offers the letter he wrote to Ms. Stimpson
Butts asks about Stimpson’s reply. Ellis said he had seen it. Butts offers it as exhibit 88.
Butts said his letter asked if Ellis could get back to work during investigation. He asked why Ellis wanted to get back to work. Ellis said he had heard about things happening in the choral department and he was concerned about the wellbeing and success of the program. He was worried about the kids being bullied and threatened and having security officers in their class forcing them to sing. He was concerned with what was in his mind and he wanted that program to continue. He said if there was a way to continue investigation so that some sense of normalcy could be brought to the school, he thought they would like that idea.
Butts: I’d like you to go to your termination letter. I’m going to bypass for now charge 1, lets go to charge 2. That he failed to provide them a curriculum that allowed them to perform songs for which copyright permission had been obtained.
Ellis said that is false. Said that we know now we didn’t have to do all of the things for copyright they are claiming in that charge.
Ellis said he did postpone the show because he wanted to do what he was informed by Mr. Greenburg regarding copyright. He wanted to do everything he could do to comply. He postponed the show so they could have more time to obtain the permissions they thought they needed.
Butts: What have you learned now about those copyright permissions?
Ellis: I was doing as much as I could when I had been told this was a process that needed to be done for every song. I did everything I could to go back and correct this problem. I know now that in just about all instances that wasn’t needed.
He said he didn’t ignore anything. “If you look at all of the emails you will see I was doing everything in my power to make sure the kids were able to perform those songs….I know now that wasn’t necessary.”
We know now students could have performed those songs and they could have had the show and the season they deserved. These are students who worked diligently for those experiences. For the administration to talk to a businessman who works for a living to get copyright permissions and didn’t know the full extent of the law and then to say I didn’t know the law is crazy. It is so wrong. We are tyriyng to be student centered and we have this situation where these kids had performed for years and had wonderful epxerinces and it is taken away in a way that didn’t make the best possible judgement for the students.
Butts: AT the time were you of the impression you neded copyright permissions for all of your songs?
Ellis said at the time yes
Butts: What led you to believe that?
Ellis said the letter he received from Hal Leonard and subsequent conversations. He was asking why this was all of a sudden happening. He had already begun structuring his show and they are telling him this was something he needed to be doing for every song.
He said that informed Dr. Williams she needed to obtain permission for songs Debra Atkinson had already done. Suzy did find this company called Tresona. I called this guy because I knew at the time I was having to go back and retroactively get my permissions. He was the one who informed me.
I was trinyg to gain an education on what was going on. I asked him a lot of questions. I asked him about the fact that his colleguaes are performing songs all ove the region where they ahven’t gotten permissions. I asked him why it was suddenly an issue. I asked him what was the fine. I wasn’t thinking I was going to go out and do this. I was just trying to educate myself. He gave me all of this false information that we know now. Ofrourse it scared me.
Butts: You said you informed Suzy Williams she neded to get permissions?
Ellis: This was August or September. I told her about this process. She didn’t indicate to me that this was something that needed to be done.
She got a whole new set of music and she started working on approvals. She ran across Tresona company and she told me about that.
Butts: Steve Anderson was the arranger she was working with? Ellis said yes. Butts asked if Anderson had a contract that required the school to get permissions?
Ellis said yes
Butts asked who was responsible for getting the permissions for the other songs?
Ellis said it was the arranger
Butts asked if he knows now that when he was an arranger he was responsible for getting that permission?
Ellis said he knows now that as an arranger it is his responsibility to get permissions and that he will do that and will retroactively correct that.
Butts: If there are any payments to be made, will you do that?
Ellis: Yes sir.
Butts: Any other comment about this copyright infusion and quagmire that has been created here?
Ellis: No sir.
Butts: Lets go on to next charge (squandering booster funds for songs that didn’t get permission)…Is that true?
Ellis: Now I know that is not true. I did what I have done every year for choreography.
Butts: Would you every hire a choreogpraher to choregrpaher and tehn have them rechoreograph something?
Ellis: That is the nature of the beast. You never know how a choreoegrpaher will present something to the kids until it is done. You don’t know until they have learned it and moved on to something else whther or not this will work. In Sound Wave where you have all girls, it is different. They get ther choreography and oyu don’t have to change much. Wave Connection with the boys, you have to consider the changes that need to be made to make sure the songs are ready for performance. You have to redo a lot of things in Wave Connection.
Butts: Did you squander booster club money be redoing choreography?
Ellis: No. that is a necessaity. You can’t take mediocre work and put it out there.
Butts: It says you squandered booster club money on travel expenses for out of state choreographers.
Ellis said he doesn’t kow exactly what that charge refers to. He said they tried to find the best rates for their travel but he doesn’t know how it is squandering money to pay for their travel.
Ellis said that before his termination he was never informed that he had been squandering money?
“The booster club as many times as we met never once opened up their mouth to say why are we paying for choreography for this song.”
Butts: Does it have something to do with a lfight instead of someone driving?
Ellis: I don’t know what they are talking about specifically.
Butts: Lets go to charge 4, tutoring students for pay. Tell us about tutoring students for pay and the charge refers to tutoring students during a school day. Is that charge trure?
Ellis: Yes it is ture. There was one student who came to me with a conflict of some after school acitivity she had to be at a particular time. She asked me to start her voice lesson that normally started at 3:05 at 2:45 instead. I started her lesson at 2:45. We did this twice. I am talking about a total of 30 minutes where I was trying to help the student to get to her other activity at a reasonable time.
Butts: Have you ever done this before?
Ellis: I may have done it one time, helped a student at lunch. I’m not sure. I don’t remember
Butts: We are talking about a total of 30 minutes of student time?
Ellis said he was not summoned to the principal’s office about it. He said he had a discussion with Mr. Meadows about it on Oct. 21 or 22.
Butts: Did you tell him what you just told us?
Butts: So he knew it was a total of 30 minutes for one student?
Butts goes to charge 5 that students were endangered when they were left behind at a mall. Is the charge true?
Butts: Briefly, where were you and what happened?
Ellis: At this particular incident, I was at Homewood High School working with stage crew and Sturcture band getting ready for the Wave Connection performance. The parents asked for my permission to take students to lunch and I said yes.
Butts: Why did you let them go?
Ellis: The parents wanted to take the students to lunch. It was right across the street. I thought it would be fine.
Butts: Had you ever been informed that it was absolutely prohbited to take a student anywhere without a staff member?
Ellis said no.
Ellis said they are talking about three buses and 150 kids. He said there is no way for three staff members to attend to every single student thtat is there. You have to have parent help. You have to have parents help the kids with the problems they have with the costumes and with their hair. There is no way for me to be in every place at every time.
Butts: When was the first time you learned of this charge?
Ellis said on Oct 28. He said he did receive the letter from Mr. Stratton. In that letter, he talked about there being a supervision problem at the mall. At the time of that letter, the only mall he had been to was the Summit mall on htat Friday and the next Sunday and he knew there was no superivison problem. He never knew there were three students left behind at a mall when you and the other students departed on the buses. I never knew about that until Oct. 28.
Butts: What bus were you on
Ellis: The bus didn’t exist that I departed on and left other students behind. That didn’t happen to my knowledge.
Butts: Was that lack of superivison on your part?
Ellis: I don’t think so.
Butts asks Ellis about students needing to fend for themselves for food. Ellis said he doesn’t know anything about that and the first time he had heard about that was Oct. 28.
He said what he knows now to his knowledge it was only one student.
Butts: Was that student wandering the streets of Birmingham to get food?
Ellis: My knowledge she walked across the street to get food. That is not wandering across the streets.
Ellis said it was a Wave Connection student. They had gone to watch the Sound Wave performance. Because they were staying over night, he gave chaperones permission to take them back to the hotel to prepare for their afternoon performance. Ellis said he was with stage crew and structure.
Butts: Is that a lack of supervision on your part?
Ellis: I don’t think so. I entrusted chaperones to give the supervision they needed.
Butts: TO your knowledge the only wandering this student did was walk across the street to Subway?
Butts is the charge true that you sent a bus home without any staff members in violation of school policy.
Ellis said it is true and he knows that now. He said it had been common practice to send buses without staff members. He said that practice started before he was director, back when Vicky Wilson was director.
Keith objects because the testimony .
Butts asks if Ellis sent students to run laps for being late. Ellis said yes, he did so to teach students responsibility.
Butts asks about nighttime rehearsals. Ellis said was not nighttime when they began but it was when they ended. He said if the student was only a couple of minutes late, he had them run their laps in the beginning of the class. If they were really late, like 20 minutes late, he had them run them at the end because he didn’t want them to miss any more rehearsal time.
“Every time there were kids running laps at night, I was outside counting the laps. I would only have them run laps at night when they were significantly late. It was in the 15s and the 20s how many laps they needed to run.
Butts: Did you endanger the students in any way?
Ellis: No. The cross country team runs all over town. Is their coach following up behind them, no. When a teacher sends their student to the office, does that student always go straight to the office. I’m sorry if they were doing other things.
Butts: Do you know they were doing other things?
Ellis: I never heard they were doing other things they were supposed to be doing. I heard that on October 28.
The hearing goes into a break at 3:07 p.m.
On to charge 8.
Butts: Do you know anything about a room being trashed at Petal?
Ellis: I did not hear anything about that at all until this letter.
Butts: Had you heard about Petal boosters voting to include Tupelo from future competitions?
Ellis said he had not heard about that at all. He said that competitions are not a matter of invitation. All you have to do is fill out a form, submit a check and go. He said it is the director’s choice on where to go.
Butts: Said that it resulted in damage to reputation of Tupelo
Ellis: that is false. I do my best to suerpvsie students. He was in cafeteria when he can to supervise students when they are eating lunch before he needs to be back in the room.
When the principal mentioned to him something about Tupelo students, he went to the kids to ask them about what was going on. He said they meet every day to establish expectations so the charge about not having rules is false.
I addressed the students. I was told they had been treated unfairly and quite rudely by the other school and the room was not damaged. Earlier testimony established that.
Butts: Does Tueplo shave a bad reputation?
Ellis said no and that everyone wants tupelo to come to their competitions. He said that it is a large group with 150 students and with parents it is 200 to 250 people in the audience supporting Tupelo. Yeah they are a large group but to call them unruly is totally false.
Butts goes to charges 9 and 10. Charging boosters for music that was already arranged and charging boosters to arrange music that was never used.
Butts submits an exhibit that contains the Wave Connection program, songs submitted by Ellis and songs submitted by Ron Jones.
Butts from previous testimony do you understand that to mean that both you and Ron Jones were paid to arrange certain songs?
Butts: What is a custom arrangement?
Ellis said it is an arrangement done for a group for the first time. You let them know the voices you need and they tailor it to your group.
Butts how much does Ron Jones charge for a custom arrangement?
Ellis most of his are $500. They arrange from $500 to (I think he said $650).
Butts: It said you charged boosters when other arrangers were paid for those songs?
Ellis” That is incorrect. The case is I arranged a number of songs. I participated in an arrangmenet project where I arranged a number of songs. Ron Jones was paid for his arrangmenet of it after I was paird.
Butts: Baby I’m a star. Ron Jones had done it as a custom arrangmenet, $500 or $600 paid by the booster club? Had you done that song?
Ellis said yes. He charged them $300 and he was paid $300. Ron Jones charged $75.
Butts: How is it you are getting an arrangment for $75?
Ellis: Because this is a previously arranged strock arrangement he had in his files?
Butts: Why would you arrange this song and then charge the booster club for a stock arrangement?
Ellis said it was a song he wanted to do. He embarked in a project. Show choir arrangement is a lot like choreographer. Arrangements for a group, it is difficult to find exactly what you need. For several songs, he didn’t feel his arrangemenet was the best possible one for the group. He asksed if he could purchase his arrangement. There were parts of his arrangement that suited the group and parts of my arrangement that suited the group. It was more like a conglomeration.
Ellis said if Jones had done a custom arrangment, it would have been $500. The savings was $175 but that was not the point. “You have to do whatever you can possibly do to get the best possible end product.”
Butts: Why are you concerned about that?
Ellis: If I took Ron Jones’ arrangement alone, there are certain aspects of that that don’t work as well?
Butts: What are you trying to accomplishment?
Ellis said an end result that the students and band members feel the best about. “We are in pursuit of excellence. That is our model. In order to get that excellence, you have to alter you get the best result you can.”
Ellis said there are times when he wasn’t arranging when he ordered a custom arrangment that didn’t work. Then the going rate was $350 to $450. He ordered a custom arrangment that didn’t work and he needed to ask someone else to do it.
“That has been happening since the beginning of time.”
Butts What do you do with arrangements that weren’t used?
Ellis said you put it in stock and put it in the library. Perhaps you use them later. That is the property of the booster club and in the long run, it can save you money because you owe those songs.
IT is common practice, if you see it doesn’t work, you put it in stock and maybe you can use it later.
Butts: You testified to “Baby I’m a Star,” does the same process follow for the other songs?
Butts: Did you charge the booster club for duties contained in your supplement.
Ellis: I did charge the booster club over $7,000. I never understood my supplement was to cover that.
Butts: Do you know of any choral director whose supplement includes arranging?
Ellis: I do not.
Butts: Do ypu have specific knowledge of other choral directors arranging music and being paid by their boosters
Ellis said he does. He said he knows it from discussons with other show choir directors.
Butts: Before you were fired, were you ever infomrted by anyone in the administration that arranging was included in your supplement?
Butts: Lets go to charge no. 12. Lack of trustworthiness on his work to get copyright.
Ellis: That is not true. My intent when I was relying what I thought was necessary to the booster club for copyright was that the terminology relayed between Marc Greenburg and myself that cleared meant I could use those songs. (That was the basis, he said, for what he told the boosters. I didn’t purposefully misrepresent the status of copyright, it was a misunderstanding of terminology.
Butts asks about charge that Ellis had encouraged students to quit the program.
Ellis said that is false
Butts asks about a text
Ellis said the text was between a former parent and a student at Tupelo High School. He can’t remember verbatim what the text said. He had heard from that former parent that there were security officers in the choral room making students sing and threatening them with zeros if they did not sing. There were a lot of crazy things going on and this parent had come to him to inform him of what was going on. Ellis told her he was disappointed in that. She told me that several of the students were thinking about quitting.
“All I did was make an off-handed statement that that would make a huge statement. Did I actually tell them to quit Wave Connection, absolutely not.”
Butts: As of that date, did you still hope to get your job back?
Butts refers to the next charge, threatening , intimidating or coercing students to interfere wit classroom attendance.
Ellis said he does not know which student this is referring to. He said he does not have any knowledge that he has ever threatened or
Butts next charge. We’ve already dealt with that. Knowing what you know now about curfew law, did you violate city curfew law?
Ellis said no.
Butts moves to charge 16, failing to get administrative approval about field trips before announcing them to students
Ellis said they have tried to take several trips since he came to Tupelo. The first thing his supervise always said is that they needed to find out if they had enough interest to take the trip. He said this is false that he announced the trip as if it was a go.I never said we are going on this trip to New York. I suggested to them this was a possibility, who would be interested and who would not be interested so before work was done to plan the trip, you would know if it was worth your time or effort prior to filling out the paperwork?
Butts: Does it make sense to you to seek prior approval before you know there is interest in the trip?
Ellis: To me, policies sometimes seem cumbersome. I am not criticizing anyone who wrote it. I just think some extracurricular directors will tell you that is not practical.
Butts: We have dealt with the exytracurricular activitiy as it is spelled out in charge 16. Was the hari and makeup night and bonding night a required school event?
Ellis: No it was not a required school event. I highly encouraged students to participate but if they told me of a conflict, were there any consequences? Absolutely not.
Butts: You reacall you sent an email to a student’s parents and commented on the failure of that student to attend?
Ellis: I was disappointed….
Keith objects because it is getting into individual student information.
Compton said can identify circumstances but not student or parent
Butts: What was your intent?
Hearing goes into closed session at 3:44 p.m.
3:49 p.m. Hearing is back in open session.
Butts asks Ellis about charge of him being paid as member of booster club. Ellis said first time he learned of the charge was when he got fired. He said no one ever made a complaint to him about it before.
Butts goes on to charge 18, entering into contracts that bind the school district. What contracts are we talking about?
Ellis said he thinks it is Hal Leonard contract and there was also a choreography contract. He said he signed those contracts.
Butts: Was there anything in your mind unusual about signing these contracts?
Ellis said no. He said that it was a contract that would be paid by the booster club. He said the common practice was set before him. He had seen previous choral directors signing bus contracts.
Butts: Has the school district paid anything on that contract?
Ellis: Only thing school district allots the choral department is $4,000 for music but we use every penny of that…we do get uniforms
Butts: You are talking about choral department?
Ellis: Choral, yes
Butts: But to you knowledge has the school district paid Hal Leonard anything?
Butts asks about charge 19. Creating a hostile work environment. He asks about the scheduling process.
Ellis said it has been a very difficult process the past couple of years.
“When we do our choral auditions at the end of the year, we put each student who auditions in a choir. It is up to the counselors to determine how they can be put in the choir they were placed in.”
Ellis said that is difficult to do when students are in different grade levels. HE said some students dropped out when they didn’t make advanced choir. He said every time they tired to work out schedule to make sure those kids got in the right choir. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. It was never purposeful to get those kids into my choir. That was ridiculous.
Butts moves on to charge 20. Charging booster club credit card for meals for his wife and his children.
Tell us about that?
Ellis: Every choreography week we have and every choreography weekend we have, those are strenuous days, long hours of being at the high school and making sure everyone is happy. There are people working hard and diligently for the students.
That is when a bulk of the choreography work happens. He said his wife is helping with costumes and helping choreographers with charts.
He said common practice has been all people involved, whether himself, Ms. Bullock, Jauna, their meals are provided. He said that has been common practice before he got there. “That is just what we do.”
I can only think of that one time, the Happy Meal of my child ever benefitting from the boosters as far as a meal was concerned. IT was a mistake. I ordered everyone’s food and out of common practice, I paid for it. If the booster club had a problem with it, I would have paid them back.
Butts: Does that still apply today?
Ellis: I would still give them the $3 back.
Butts: Did anyone every complain about your use of the credit card?
Ellis said no one every complained. They all get in their little groups and talk about it. He said he told the treasurer that he has a difficulty keeping up with receipts and that was the extend of their conversation.
Butts: Did you ever use the credit card improperly for your own personal gain?
Ellis said never. He said there were things for mailings, for mailing out CDs he bought a scanner that is still at the school that could be used to send things to choreographers and he told them about those major purposes.
Butts: Lets go to 21. You were directed not to have any contact with students, parents or TPSD staff. Did that occur?
Ellis: There were a couple of incidents were that did occur. Valerie Whitwell did contact him the day he was placed on leave. She called him because they had been in contact about the week’s events.
Butts: You didn’t initiate the contact?
Ellis: No, she called me.
Butts: Do you know today even what they are talking about?
Ellis said no. He said he saw parents at church, at his son’s soccer games. He said he saw a parent once when he was at Ichiban. He said it was awkward.
Butts: Was it your intent to be insubordinate?
Butts moves to charge 22. That Ellis was supposed to focus his time during his leave on obtaining copyright permissions.
Do you know now you did not need to get them?
Butts: it says “I” asked you to keep a daily log of every effort you made and to submit it to me by 3 p.m. Did you do that?
Ellis: First of all, that is not true. He asked me to create a log. I don’t remember him asking me to report daily at 3 p.m. He asked me to prepare a report and I definitely did that and submitted it to him on the following day.
Butts: What were you to do at 3:00 every day in your understanding?
Ellis: I was told I had to call central office at 3:00 every day to see where the investigation was going. I did that every single day (He said sometimes he was put on hold for 20 minutes or so or sometimes he never got an answer)
I felt it was a waste of my time to call at 3:00 every day and not get everything.
Butts: Is this the log you prepared?
Butts enters it as an exhibit
Butts: That concludes going through the charges. Before we go into closed session, I’d like to ask what affect have these charges and this proceeding had on you and your family?
Ellis: I can’t stress enough the stress that this whole process has brought to me and my family. I try to live my life in an honorable respectful Christian manner. AS a teacher, I always try to inspire kids and motivate kids, to be a role model to them, to be open to the problems they are having. I have always thought of teaching as more of a ministry than a job.
The worst part of this is my superintendent Mr. Meadows on Oct. 28, sat in the office with Mr. Turner and said to me, I don’t usually participate in this process, an ending event, I usually leave that up to Mr. Turner, but because I have so much respect for you I will sit in on this.
That rings in my mind because if my superintendent has respect for me (wouldn’t he owe it to me to sit down and talk to me about it. That meeting lasted for 10 minutes. For someone to have respect for me, I would think they would give me a chance to talk about it).
To see how this whole process has had a spin on it to say that I’m a perverted person, the students have been spun as perverted students and have been slandered. The motto is student centered.
That is not student centered where you take an event that happened in innocent fund and turn it into something slanderous. That has had an emotional impact on me.
I’ve had digestive issues. My wife has been in emergency room for stress. My son who has been raised in Tupelo choral program has asked me repeatedly why I don’t go to work anymore.
This has had an impact on my family that is beyond words and beyond description.
I am hurt, outraged, disappointed, all of those things. I have worked my tail off for this district and have not been given enough respect that he said he had for me to talk about this.
It has hard to go out into community and think what does this person think about me.
It plays a lot in your mind when you wonder what is this person thinking. Do they think I am a perverted choir director? That is not Calvin Ellis. That is not me. It was a mistake and a prank. That is not what happened.
Hearing goes into closed session at 4:11 p.m.
Hearing resumes at 4:31 p.m. Butts presents Ellis with his evaluations. District’s attorneys are reviewing them.
Butts said that Ellis has another document in front of him. Ellis said it is a compilation of all messages posted to Team Ellis page prior to Oct. 28, before he was fired.
Keith objects. One because there is no foundation that this is what it purports to me and because he does not know what the relevance is.
Butts said it is a demonstration of the support of the community for Ellis by people who have come to know him.
Keith said he has the same objection and that there is no way to test the credibility of the statements or where they came from.
Compton said his concern is that there are full names that may be student names.
Compton said he will let it be marked for ID.
Butts said he rests his case. It is 4:42
Hearing will recess until 8:30 tomorrow.
District will cross examine Ellis at that time and possibly have rebuttal witnesses. Compton said that he is hopeful the hearing will wrap up tomorrow.